Thursday, 1 March 2007
The Aura (2005) dir. Fabian Bielinsky
Starring: Ricardo Darin
“The Aura” is Argentinean director, Fabian Bielinsky’s follow-up to his indie hit “Nine Queen’s”. Sadly a year after its release Bielinsky died of a heart attack at 47. The film continues Bielinsky’s examination of the neo-crime genre. Whereas “Nine Queens” was a classic con-game, “The Aura” is harder to pin down. It’s set up and structured as a traditional crime/noir thriller, but is paced like a Kieslowki drama. These two qualities unfortunately compete with one another and cause the film to fail.
Esteban (the Argentine star, Ricardo Darín) is a detail-oriented introvert who works as a taxidermist in a museum. During a trip to the bank with his colleague, he observes the motions of the security guards and bank staff and describes to his friend a scenario of robbing the bank. Of course, he would never go through with it, but he finds joy in the possibility of him doing it. It’s a neat sequence as we see the hypothetical heist in progress as Esteban describes it. Unfortunately, it’s just a show-off set piece which could have been left on the cutting room floor.
We also learn that Esteban has a photographic memory, in addition to a bad case of chronic migraines (hence the title ‘Aura’). Not knowing anything about the film, it seemed to be setting up a ‘Memento’ or perhaps “Dead Zone”/Stephen King type of story. Instead it continues as a straight-ahead crime thriller.
Esteban and his colleague travel to woods to go hunting – this will take his mind off his troubles at home, which includes his wife who has just left him. Despite his job and his daydreams of criminal behaviour Esteban can’t shoot the animals. His colleague calls him soft - shattering his ego. Later on in the day, by accident he shoots and kills another man – a local hunter. Esteban is shocked, and decides to hide the body, instead of calling the police. Upon investigating the man’s possessions Esteban learns of a bank heist which the hunter was trying to set up. With the adrenaline of the kill still racing through him, he decides to enter the game of crime and deception and participate in the felony.
Esteban succeeds in this dangerous new world with his gift of observance, but of course, the thrill comes with the risk. The cool, slick elements are all there, mysterious keys, fragments of handwritten notes to decipher, hidden hand guns, casino chips and dog-eared maps. The plotting and execution of the crime is standard, and of course, he’s eventually found out and is forced to dig his way out of the mess he’s covered himself in.
The faults of the film surprisingly are fundamental. The film runs 2 hours and 15mins – and smells badly of an ego-film by a director with final cut authority. Pacing is very slow (it takes 25 min before the inciting action occurs), each scene could have had a 2-3 mins trimmed at the beginning and the end. In fact, it’s editing 101 to enter and end a scene at the precise moment in order to capture plot, character, and mood. It’s the apparent the director fell in love with his shots and couldn’t part with them. Esteban’s migraine auras doesn’t contribute to the film in any constructive way, it seems more an technical exercise for the director to show off. There are innumerable long lingering shots on trees, Esteban’s eyes or a dog’s snarl. On many occasions I wanted to yell, “Cut, Print, Check the Gate, Let’s move on!”
As a result a thriller which should have zipped along like a ‘Blood Simple”, “Red Rock West,” or even his own “Nine Queens” instead stumbles and staggers like a flat tire. Pass.